Unlocking the Power of UGC Ads: A Comprehensive Guide

By Jason Carroll · Updated Oct 27, 2023

The most successful social media brands use UGC (User Generated Content) in their ads. But what exactly are UGC ads, and how can you harness their potential to supercharge your marketing campaigns?

That’s what this resource is going to show you.

UGC can be a powerful move for enhancing brand engagement and trust. According to research, 83% of consumers want authentic shopping experiences. Another study found that 92% of users trust authentic UGC more than traditional ads.

What does this all mean?

The modern consumer prefers to see real people using products before they purchase.

What Are UGC Ads?

Traditionally, UGC ads are advertising that incorporates content created by actual product or service users. They offer a raw, unfiltered, and authentic touch to the promotional narrative. They are often in the form of reviews and social media posts showcasing real-life experiences that aren’t scripted, which makes them highly relatable and trustworthy. However, the reality is UGC can also be scripted, using tactical methods of hiring influencers to produce authentic content.

Either way, this authenticity is a refreshing change and a powerful tool that can amplify engagement and conversions significantly.

The UGC Advantage

It's evident that brands are embracing the UGC trend. You've probably noticed an uptick in UGC TikTok ads, UGC video ads, and much more.

Since most people research products before buying, UGC ads make perfect sense. Even more so if your brand's already collaborating with influencers or gathering customer content (e.g., reviews).

Some additional reasons brands are embracing UGC in droves include the following.

  • UGC provides compelling social proof that a product works, which can elevate ad results. One recent study shows UGC can result in a 100.6% conversion boost.
  • Embracing UGC lightens the content creation load. This translates to reduced overhead costs, which is a huge advantage.
  • People-centric content is what truly shines on social media platforms. UGC offers a refreshing divergence from generic product promotion that keeps consumers engaged.

Every content piece by customers or creators provides impactful social validation that can improve business outcomes.

UGC Ads in Action: Real-World Examples

Here are some fantastic UGC ad campaign examples.

Coca-Cola's #ShareACoke Campaign

Coca-Cola printed popular names on its drinks and asked consumers to buy one with a friend's name and share it on social media platforms using the hashtag #ShareACoke.

The campaign was designed to foster a deeper bond between the brand and its audience while amplifying interaction and content sharing. They sold over 250 million named bottles upon release in Australia.

#ShareACoke quickly expanded to other countries thanks to its popularity among consumers.

Nike's "Play For The World"

The company encouraged people to share their athletic achievements on social media with the hashtag #PlayForTheWorld. They then shared the most inspiring stories, recognizing those achievements and creating a sense of community.

The campaign came right on time to address how the pandemic was affecting athletes across the globe. It celebrates the pursuit of sports excellence, addressing how athletes were still working hard despite staying indoors.

GoPro’s “Be A Hero Challenge”

GoPro is encouraging customers to capture “rad” footage of things they love to do, share it with the company, and get selected for gifts. Rewards include free GoPro gear, cash, and social media features.

The brand has been running this campaign for a long time, as far back as 2010.

“My Calvins” by Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein introduced a social media campaign where customers can share their looks using the hashtag #mycalvins for a chance to be featured.

This was an ingenious way for the brand to stand out, especially since it's in a competitive market. The hashtag has garnered more than 870,000 posts on Instagram.

Types of UGC

Social Posts or Shares

These are UGCs on social platforms where individuals share their experiences, photos, or thoughts about a product or brand—for example, user-led hashtag challenges with content around a specific theme.


Customer reviews provide firsthand insights into a product's performance and quality, which greatly influences buying decisions. A company can pull them from third-party review platforms like Yelp or their website and showcase them in ads.

Case Studies

These are detailed narratives that showcase the success story of your customer or client using a particular product or service. Highlighting real-world applications and results in your ads is a great way to offer proof of the product’s efficacy and value.


Sometimes, customers record themselves or write texts recommending a product to their network. You can use this type of content in your ads. Some brands incentivize this behavior with rewards or discounts.

Community Forums

Online platforms where users have discussions, ask questions, and share their experiences about products can become content for ads.

Online Events and Podcasts

You can leverage user-generated online events or audio shows discussing specific topics. These content types often provide in-depth information for educational purposes. People typically release such content to position themselves as thought leaders in their space.

How to Start Using UGC In Your Advertising Strategy

Using UGC in your advertising campaign may seem daunting due to its vast and distinctive nature. But it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Here's a quick step-by-step guide to simplify the process.

1. Gather UGC

The first step is to gather the content you wish to use.

If you have a new brand or zero mentions (social mentions, forum discussions, etc.), you need to reach out to customers and influencers to create content.

For your customers, you could introduce a challenge to inspire them to create and share content. As for influencers, reach out to begin building relationships.

However, if you already have social mentions, use the following process.

  • Platform exploration: Accumulate relevant user posts from social media and other channels. The latter may take too much time, so you might want to focus on social media alone. A common approach for social is to use the branded hashtags users attach to their content to streamline aggregation.
  • Content selection: Discern which pieces align best with your advertising vision.

2. Secure User Content Permissions

You’ll most likely have to ask for permission to use UGC. So, it's vital to understand the legal nuances when repurposing UGC for ads.

As for the process, it’s simple. Just send your UGC permission request to obtain the creator's consent. This may involve having them sign a legal document. Consult with your legal team for the best steps.

To most people, the company is only offering a discount. However, they are also addressing the price objection immediately. Anyone who clicks the ad will know and be ready to pay. 

In addition, be ethical. Refrain from editing the content in a way that misleads consumers. Honesty can boost the credibility of your campaign, fostering trust.

3. Implement UGC in Your Ad Campaigns

After obtaining the necessary permissions, it's time to infuse UGC into your ad strategy.

Consider your ad objectives so you can engage your audience using the most compelling UGC for best results. And remember to make use of ad management tools.

You can use each platform's ad manager to monitor performance and optimize UGC ads.

The Advantages Of UGC Ads

UGC ads are rapidly becoming a must in digital marketing. Leveraging them in your ads correctly can lead to the following results.

1. Amplified Authenticity

UGC instills a genuine touch to ads that magnify their potency. With real users recounting their brand experiences, it's modern-day word-of-mouth marketing.

Research suggests 71% of users prefer personalized ads over generic brand messages.

2. Increased Credibility and Trust

Credibility and trustworthiness are crucial in an age where purchasing decisions are swayed by social media content. The more authentic the brand, the more they stand out.

By leveraging unscripted UGC, you’re portraying your business through the lens of real users, which bolsters credibility and trust. In fact, a remarkable 92% of consumers trust UGC during purchase decisions.

3. Better ROI

Brands can achieve higher click-through rates and conversions by using UGC because of the increase in trust. For example, you're more likely to buy a product if someone made an unscripted, honest review about it online.

UGC ads also reduce the costs associated with content creation.

4. Higher Engagement

What better way to amplify engagement than by showcasing content about your product from real users? People usually trust the words of others more than they do a brand.

A great UGC campaign can turn customers into brand advocates who help your business attract new customers. It’s like putting marketing on autopilot.

No Time Like The Present

As you can see, UGC ads can be very effective. It’s a shift towards more authentic advertising that can foster community, drive engagement, and build trust relatively quickly. And social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are fertile grounds for UGC ad campaigns.

These platforms have a massive, engaged audience that values authenticity, making them the perfect places to run your ads. They also facilitate the collection and integration of UGC.

However, the approach is crucial because done inadequately, UGC can become a problem for the brand. One example is what happened with McDonald’s #McDStories campaign.

The company had launched a Twitter campaign hoping to inspire heart-warming stories about Happy Meals. Instead, it attracted people who bashed the brand, turning the hashtag into a “bashtag.”

Finally, here are some bonus tips to consider whether you're making UGC video ads or plain text and image ads.

  • Make sure your UGC campaign is easy and fun. People should be able to create content without jumping through hoops.
  • Customers should find it easy to promote the content.
  • The campaign should encourage emotional and social connection. Nike’s Play For The World (covered earlier) is a great example.
  • If your brand is facing bad publicity, there may be an opportunity to turn it into a positive UGC ad campaign. For example, the #shotoniphone campaign by Apple began after the company realized people were unhappy with their camera quality. Instead of ignoring the issue, they fixed it and introduced the campaign to illustrate the new standard. Over 29 million posts are using the hashtag on Instagram alone.

Leveraging UGC can deliver more engagement and conversion than traditional ads.
Looking for support with UGC? Learn about our newest offering that will amplify your creative growth.

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Jason Carroll

Jason is the founder of JC Digital, a lifelong storyteller and performance marketer who has helped add $100M+ in revenue to consumer brands over a decade in the industry.

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